FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
SECOND ROUND OF CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS TO BE HELD TOMORROW ON ANTHRAX VACCINE
Challenges Continue To Mount Against Defense Department's Vaccination Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. --
The Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives will hold its second oversight hearing tomorrow, Thursday, April 29, 1999, at 10 a.m. in room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building on the Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program. The hearing comes in the wake of the publication of the May 1999 issue of Vanity Fair, which revealed the results of a study that found the presence of squalene, a highly toxic adjuvant that does not have FDA approval, in the blood of those military personnel who have received the anthrax vaccine.
"In this second hearing on anthrax, the Subcommittee will focus on the safety of the vaccine and its effectiveness against aerosolized biological weapons attack," said Chairman Christopher Shays (R-CT). Among the witnesses will be representatives from the General Accounting Office (GAO), FDA, DoD, the vaccine manufacturer, and individuals who have received the vaccine. Mark S. Zaid, the Executive Director for The James Madison Project (JMP), appeared as a witness at the first oversight hearing which was held on March 24, 1999.
"We are hopeful that the Congressional hearings will result in a heightened awareness and sensitivity on the part of the public regarding the lack of forthrightness of the Pentagon. The existing evidence raises such significant concerns that the Pentagon should temporarily cease the vaccination program until precautionary tests are undertaken," said Zaid.
The Defense Department plans to inoculate all 2.4 million active duty against anthrax at an estimated cost of $130 million. The immunization series calls for six injections of the "killed bacteria" vaccine over a period of 18 months, followed by annual booster shots. Vaccinations began in March 1998. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the vaccine for civilian use against incidental infection in 1970. However, concerns have been raised about the vaccine's effectiveness against massive doses of weaponized anthrax anticipated in an intentional biological warfare attack. In addition, the only FDA-approved manufacturer, the Michigan Biologic Products Institute (MBPI)(now BioPort), has been repeatedly cited for quality control problems.
In April 1998, Mr. Zaid was the first attorney to represent military personnel refusing the vaccine when several sailors onboard the U.S.S. Independence refused to submit to the vaccination. As General Counsel for the non-profit organization Veterans for Integrity in Government, Mr. Zaid also filed an action in June 1998, under the Freedom of Information Act that forced the Defense Department to disclose thousands of pages of documents that were previously unseen. JMP recently represented Airman Jeffrey Bettendorf in his court-martial proceeding, the first involving an anthrax refuser, at Travis Air Force Base based on his refusal to submit to the anthrax vaccine. Currently, JMP represents six Marines who are facing court-martial proceedings at Twenty-Nine Palms and Camp Pendleton in California.
"If the squalene allegations are proven true, the Defense Department has committed conduct similar in nature to that which we condemned the Nazis from performing 50 years ago. It would mean our troops have been used as guinea pigs," said Zaid. He added that the presence of a non-FDA approved adjuvant in the anthrax vaccine would change the vaccine to being "experimental", thereby requiring the military to obtain voluntary consent before inoculation. JMP is actively exploring filing a class action injunction against the Department of Defense for an immediate cessation of the anthrax vaccination program, which is currently mandatory.
JMP is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization with the primary purpose of educating the public on issues relating to intelligence gathering and operations, secrecy policies, national security and government wrongdoing.